This time it's Elizabeth I and Her People which opened today at the National Portrait Gallery. It will continue until 5 January 2014.
(The first Elizabeth exhibition was last year's very successful exhibition - see my Review: 'The Queen - Art and Image' at the NPG 24 May 2012)
Key aspects of the exhibitionA lot of thought has gone into the presentation of the exhibition. I was very impressed as soon as I walked through the door.
|Entrance to the exhibition - about the land at the time of Elizabeth|
On the left a fair at Bermondsey
On the right Queen Elizabeth I on one of her processions
|A view looking back through the exhibition|
the display cases show female and male accoutrements of dress - hair pins, pomanders and guns!
On the left is a Family Tree - with pictures of the different individuals
We walk into a quick introduction to what Elizabethan life looks like - in terms of the extent of Elizabethan England
I'm a complete mapoholic so I was immediately consumed with interest for the two very old maps at the beginning of the exhibition. Here's the interactive zoomable image of the map shown below on loan from the British Library. It gives a very good sense of how big London is. I'd have loved to have seen the people in the portraits located in terms of where they lived or worked in London. The links below go to the Tudor descriptions of the building
|Panorama of London by William Smith (1550-1618)|
View of London, Westminster and Southwark, ink and pigments on vellum, British Library
From right to left you can see
the Tower of London on the extreme right, where Elizabeth's mother was beheaded on Tower Green
complete with a real moat, now in decline as a royal residence
"old" London Bridge with some of the 200 buildings situated on it,
Southwark Cathedral (already 500 years old in Tudor times!)
the round bull and bear-baiting pits at Bankside (where Tate Modern is now situated)
Old St Paul's Cathedral after the spire was destroyed by lightning
and before the Great Fire (left of centre on the horizon)
and the Palace of Whitehall where Henry VII had lived as an adult
Westminster Hall - which now forms part of the Houses of Parliament
and Westminster Abbey to the extreme left
There's a lot of portraits of the Queen and the nobility - major people at her court. I particularly enjoyed ones less often seen- such as the simply massive painting from Hardwicke Hall - which is best appreciated while looking through the 'window' from the next gallery.
|Portraits of Queen Elizabeth I|
(Left) Elizabeth I (known as the Darnley portrait) by an unknown continental artist
(centre) Elizabeth I - normally hangs at Hardwick Hall
(right) Elizabeth I, the Ermine portrait - attributed to Nicholas Hilliard
However it's not just about the Queen.
|Nobility, Gentry and the Moorish Amabassador|
That's Sir Walter Raleigh on the left - with a surprise within the painting
|Room 4: paintings of merchants, bankers and professional men and women|
|A set of Tudor drawing instruments c.1565-75Lent by the Trustees of the British Museum|
The exhibition has a fascinating collection of artifacts in display cases
which relate to the portraits and the people portrayed
- portraits of the time could involve one painter painting the head and other painters painting costumes on a mannequin
- drawings from Tudor times are rare. However this exhibition includes what appears to be a preparatory drawing for a portrait of Elizabeth 1
- there also examples of miniatures and the use of cameos - as rings.
|The skirt of the Hardwick Hall portrait - with pictures of nature - animals, birds, flowers and fruit|
|Elizabeth Vernon, Countess of Southampton|
Here's the digital resources which are available about this exhibition
The films (plural) focus on the different rooms of the exhibition. My criticism would be I'd have liked to see lot less talking heads and much more images from the exhibition.
- Introduction to the Elizabethan Age (3m24s) - a very helpful inroduction in narrative terms but images to go with the story instead of just a talking head would have been nice
- Encountering the Queen: Portraits of Elizabeth I (3m27s). See also Queen Elizabeth I ('The Darnley portrait') (3m29s)
- The Nobility and Gentry (1m07s)
- Elizabethan Merchants and Portraiture (2m07s)
- Cultural Changes: Public Theatres and Literacy (2m30s)
- Social Mobility in the Elizabethan Period (1m14s)
- The Elizabethan Bookshelf (2m11s) - this highlights books in the exhibition - including a Herbal
How to see the exhibitionAdvance booking is highly recommended for this exhibition. The gallery used for the exhibition is one which can get very hot at times. However I'm assured that the numbers visiting at any one time will be limited - via timed ticketing. Hence if you want to see this exhibition at a time convenient to you, I'd start booking your tickets now.
This is an exhibition which is bound to be very popular with schools and school children doing the Tudors in primary school. If you want to avoid lots of small children, I'd advise visiting after 3pm - which is usually when they start to disappear.
For those bringing children to London to see the exhibition you might like to also take in an associated exhibition. The Cheapside Hoard: London’s Lost Jewels at the Museum of Londo ls and gemstones which were recovered in . 11 October 2013 – 27 April 2014. www.museumoflondon.org.uk
Other reviews of the exhibition
- Daily Telegraph - Elizabeth I and her People, National Portrait Gallery, review - Absolutely pitiful and ignorant. The so-called "art critic" Alastair Smart judges portraits of the 16th century by standards associated with the 20th and 21st centuries i.e. that portraits should be about the people and not their status. Has he ever heard of putting the cart before the horse? How can you judge portraiture by concepts which have not yet been invented? The whole point of the curator's scholarly endeavours is to demonstrate that Tudor times was the first period where painters started to make portraits of ordinary people - but these were still of professionals. The whole thesis of the article assumes that Holbein had some amazing psychological insight into the people he painted - as opposed to being an excellent draughtsman and painter.
- The Guardian - Sir Walter Raleigh's crescent moon compliment to Elizabeth I revealed opts for the latest press release topic and an interesting story - but says little about the exhibition. Maybe they didn't actually visit the exhibition?
Exhibition detailsELIZABETH I AND HER PEOPLE Supported by The Weiss Gallery
10 October 2013 - 5 January 2014, National Portrait Gallery, London www.npg.org.uk
- Gift Aid ticket prices: (includes voluntary Gift Aid donation of 10% above standard price): Adult £13.50, Concs. £12.50/£11.50
- Standard ticket prices: Adult £12.50, Concs £11.30 / £10.40)